Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey and Noodles

Welcome to the holiday season! I love this time of the year... the beautiful snow, the extra excuses to get together with family and friends, and the excessive amounts of food! This season is also bursting with traditions for many of us (which may or may not be a blessing, depending who you are and how you feel about such things, haha). One of the biggest traditions around Thanksgiving for a lot of Americans is what has come to be known as "Black Friday." Millions of people go crazy, getting up ridiculously early to get to their favorite stores in the hopes of getting a killer deal. But not us (and especially not me... I worked too many holiday seasons in the retail industry to ever want to set foot inside a store on Black Friday again). No... while most of America is busy fighting each other for the best deal on socks and flat-screen TVs, my mother and I are usually busy in the kitchen with our own Black Friday fun.

And I present...
...turkey and noodles.

The day after Thanksgiving, everyone is in the same boat... bloated and sick of turkey, with way too much turkey leftover to justify not eating turkey again for the rest of the weekend. But fear not, for there is a better solution than dry turkey sandwiches.

The meal I present to you is my all-time favorite. If I were on my deathbed and faced with choosing my last supper, I would choose turkey with homemade egg noodles without even having to think about it. It is the ultimate comfort food. Warm and filling, with chewy noodles and salty broth, and big chunks of turkey that'll make you beg for a slice of pumpkin pie to follow.

In this recipe, it's all about the egg noodles, baby. Sure, you could settle and make turkey soup with store-bought egg noodles, but don't cheat yourself. Take the time to make your own with love and affection, and trust me, the noodles will love you back.

Start with the eggs. The amount of noodles you want will determine the number of eggs to use. We wanted enough to last all weekend, so we used 5 eggs this time. Whisk the eggs, add a generous pinch or two of salt, then add flour half a cup at a time. There's really no measuring with this step... you just have to feel the dough.

Just keep kneading the flour into the eggs, half a cup at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky and forms a nice ball.

Now it's time to roll.

Make sure your surface is good and floured before beginning this or the dough will stick mercilessly to it. Continue to add flour to the dough as needed... we want it good and dry. Roll the dough until it is very, very thin.

Oh, and don't be ashamed if you wind up wearing some flour... happens to the best of us, haha. :)

And now we roll some more! Only this time, we're rolling the dough up. Flour the surface of the dough one more time, to keep it from sticking to itself as you roll.

Once the dough is rolled all the way up, cut it into thin ribbons. This is what is to become our noodles.

Next, separate the noodles. Spread them out over your counter and let them dry until they feel a little crunchy (technical, I know).

Meanwhile, prep the rest of your ingredients. Chop up some onion, celery, and garlic... the amount will depend, again, on how much you are making. We used about 3 stalks of celery, 1/4 of an onion, and 2 cloves of garlic for the amount we were making. Shred some of the leftover turkey, as much as you'd like... we used about 2 cups. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in a little olive oil and add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Next, add some chicken broth... we used approximately 1 small can and 1 32 ounce carton. Season with a pinch of herbes de provence, sage, or whatever suits you at the time. Add the turkey, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes. Mom also likes to add some of the leftover turkey gravy... we added about half a cup this time. This, of course, is completely optional, although it does add tremendous flavor to the broth.

Add the noodles to the broth in small chunks, separating them with a pasta fork once in the water. It's important not to add them all at once or they will stick together and you'll wind up with a big blob of what should have been your noodles. However, don't go too slowly... these noodles cook very quickly and if you're too slow the first batch of noodles will be done before you get the last bit into the broth. Once all of the noodles are in, stir tenderly to separate but be careful not to break the noodles, and feel free to add more broth if the soup is too thick. The noodles will soak up a lot of (in fact, most of) the broth, so if you want any broth left by the time you eat it don't be afraid to add more! Allow everything to simmer for a few minutes, season to taste, then turn off the stove. There's no real specific time to cook the noodles... tasting is the only way to tell if they're done. A done egg noodle will still have a little bit of bite, without being doughy. Feel free to serve right away, or let it sit for a while to let the noodles soak up all of that yummy broth. It will inevitably thicken (and become even more delicious!) as it sits. This is definitely one of those meals that gets better after a day or two in the fridge. All the more reason to make a lot, haha!

Margo Oliver once said, "There comes a time when you must count the blessings and ignore the calories." This is definitely one of those occasions. And as I sit here, with my warm, fulfilling bowl of turkey and noodles and the snow falling heavily outside my window, the blessings feel so immense and the calories so insignificant. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pork Loin with Acorn Squash and Green Beans

I'm pretty sure my mother thinks that everything I cook and eat is either fried or loaded with sugar. That, my friends, simply isn't true. Case in point...

...pork chops with acorn squash and green beans.

Ok... so it's not the fanciest meal ever. Really, it's almost as basic as a good meal comes. But it's healthy! ...and pretty damn delicious, if I may say so myself. You've got a good serving of lean protein, a nutrient-rich starch, and a vegetable. Can we say balanced? Plus, at only 450 calories total (estimated, of course), it's practically guilt-free, haha. :)

The most complicated part of cooking this meal is splitting the acorn squash open, haha... it's definitely an upper arm workout (at least for me)! But cooking the squash is a cinch... this is one of the few things I prefer to cook in the microwave, believe it or not. In the oven, I've had squash bake for an hour and still come out firm, but it comes out buttery soft after 10 minutes in the microwave. I place the halves cut-side down in a baking dish (after scraping out the seeds and "guts", of course), cover tightly with plastic wrap, and microwave for 5 minutes, then I turn them over, place a teaspoon of butter in each half, cover, and microwave again for another 5 minutes. Voila... delicious, un(hardly)adulterated acorn squash, just the way God intended it.

And the pork? I think simple is an understatement. I cut all the visible fat from the chops, lightly spray each side with olive oil cooking spray, and season both sides with a little kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and rosemary. Then I cook them over medium-high heat in a dry pan, 6 minutes each side, turning twice and covering during the last 6 minutes of cooking. And I must admit... when it comes to the green beans I am a dirty, dirty cheater. I bought a small bag of pre-washed fresh green beans, microwaved them in the bag for 5 minutes, and tossed with 2 teaspoons of butter, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Dane doesn't care for squash, so I mashed some yukon gold potatoes with a little milk, butter, and salt and pepper for him. If I hadn't been seriously craving squash I would have eaten the potatoes myself... I love the buttery, creamy texture of yukon golds... definitely my favorite potatoes to mash.

I'm no Rachel Ray, but this is definitely a recipe I keep in my half-hour recipe box. Quick, healthy, satisfying, simple... a keeper, if you ask me.

And see, mom? Wedding diet acceptable. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Good morning, winter.

Ah... the first snow of the season. What a wondrous thing. :)

While I'm sure I'll be sick of the snow and yearning for the first thaw of spring before January is half through, I do always enjoy the first snow. The child in me becomes instantly excited for the holidays... it conjures up thoughts of warm pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and of decorating our Christmas tree. And what great timing, oh snow... the first day of Thanksgiving break. I do welcome this gift.

Yet as much as I would love nothing more than to stay at home and bake all day, it's off to another long day of orientation for the new job. But rest assured, in between filling my head with charting procedures and policies of the hospital, I'll certainly be thinking about all of that pumpkin bread I'll soon be baking...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pork Fried Rice

For a long time, I was afraid to attempt to make fried rice because I thought it would be too difficult. I'm not sure why... somehow I was afraid that any rice I made simply wouldn't live up to the restaurant creations I had grown to love. But about a year ago, I was feeling adventurous and found this recipe from It was an instant hit.

This is one of the few recipes I've made so many times that I actually have it memorized. It's definitely one of my go-to recipes these days.

It's funny to me now that I was once so afraid of this dish, because it's really very easy... especially if you let the grocery store do half the work for you! The key is to do all the prep work before you get cooking and have everything ready, because it really goes fast once you get going.

Normally, I'm all for starting with whole ingredients and doing the extra prep work myself. But this is one case where it's really worth it to shop for convenience. Yes, you could use unboiled rice, but I find that minute rice works just as well and takes a third of the time to prepare. Sure, you could buy the green beans, carrots, and peas all separately, but the bag of frozen mixed veggies provides everything for only the effort it takes to cut open the bag. And the ham? Not only do I find it more convenient to buy the pre-cubed package, but I find that it's actually cheaper! But if you splurge on only one thing, I strongly encourage you, friends, use sesame oil! Don't bother with any of your standard cooking oils... it just won't taste the same, trust me. Plus once you get a whiff of that warm, toasty sesame oil wafting through your kitchen, you won't ever want to use another oil again.

What's nice about this recipe, too, is that it goes quite far. With our busy schedules and limited food budget, Dane and I find that it's nice to make enough food for dinner that we can eat it again the next day for lunch, and this is one of the few recipes that not only tastes just as good reheated, it actually tastes better the longer it sits. This recipe will make at least 4 meal-sized servings if not more, so there's plenty for lunch the next day and maybe even the day after. Plus, it smells so good that people at work get jealous of what you're eating... and that's got to feel good, right? :)

So how to? Click to read on.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A large part of my inspiration to create this blog came from reading bloggers who are currently competing in the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog contest. And I've decided that someday... when I'm no longer trying to survive RT school, when my skills are a bit more developed and creative... someday, I too will compete in Project Food Blog. This journey is already exciting. :)

Apple Pie

Apple pie has a special place in my heart. It was always one of my favorite desserts growing up, and it was one of the first things I made on my own after leaving home. It was the first thing I ever cooked for Dane, matter of fact. Hahaha... you should have seen the two of us in the basement of Driscoll Hall (the dorm I lived in my freshman year at BSU), peeling apples with butter knives we'd stolen from the cafeteria. It took forever to peel all the apples - especially because I was making 2 pies - and cutting them with the dull knives yielded weird, uneven chunks... but despite all of the hiccups, the pies turned out to be delicious, so much so that Dane ate almost a whole one by himself. We still joke that that was the day he knew he loved me. :)

Unsurprisingly, I make an apple pie every year around thanksgiving. My family already has pies covered for thanksgiving this year, so there's no need to take one to the annual feast, so this one is just for Dane and I. He's currently hunting but he'll be back tomorrow, and I hope he finds it a welcome surprise.

...and with all the tradition surrounding apple pie, it seemed only fitting that my first real food post should be about the beloved dessert. :)

Keeping with Mom's tradition, I like to use 2 different kinds of apples. She usually uses Rome and Granny Smith, but I've had a particular fondness for Honey Crisps this year so I thought I'd give those a try instead of Rome.

Mom also taught me to do the filling a little differently than most methods I've seen. Most recipes I've seen call for the sugar and spices to be mixed in with the apples, and then to have the whole apple-spice mixture poured into the crust... we, however, like to layer it. Keeping everything separate, make a thin layer of apples on the bottom of the crust, then place a few pads of butter on top of the apples and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Repeat.


Six apples gives you a nice big mound of goodness on which to place your top crust. When it cooks, the butter will melt and combine with the sugar and apples as they reduce to form a lovely sort of gravy on the inside of the pie. I almost always have some of the sugar-spice mixture left over after making a pie... I like to save it and eat it on oatmeal. :)

Look at how pretty it turned out! Next time I think I'll use at least one more apple... it cooked down a little more than I really wanted. I really only make about one of these a year, so I forget sometimes how much those delicious apples like to sink into the pie.

photo updated on 11/22/11
For a new challenge this year, I decided to try making my own whipped cream. Everyone's been telling me that once you have homemade whipped cream you'll never eat cool-whip again... and boy were they right! What have I been missing all my life? Maybe I was simply eating the wrong kind of cool whip... I mean, after all, the stuff I usually eat is almost always labeled "sugar-free" or "fat-free" or "light", in my feverish attempts to avoid the diabetes and heart disease that run so prevalently in my family. The whipped cream I made certainly had none of those three labels. But even as my arteries are clogging and my pancreas is shutting down as we speak I must say... I have never had whipped cream this tasty in my life.

It was light and fluffy... but rich.  For once in my life I could taste the cream and the vanilla, instead of just the air. And I usually claim that I could eat a whole tub of cool-whip by myself... so uh oh... this could be bad news, for sure. A whipped cream obsession, fueled by even better whipped cream? Maybe my mother was right... maybe I am going to gain 200 pounds from all this cooking. Probably not the best diet to be on 9 months out from my wedding... hahaha... especially with no time to work out these days! Oh well... all the people I care about know how much I love food anyway. :)

photo updated on 11/22/11

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The First Step

Is there anything more truly comforting than food? I think not.

My fondest memories of home surround the kitchen table and a plate of sauteed shrimp with garlic and some crusty bread with cheese. I fondly recall the day my mother taught me how to make homemade egg noodles for chicken and noodles, and the story of how it was a staple in her home growing up because eggs and flour were cheap and a whole chicken would last for several meals. Things as simple as bacon and pancakes still remind me of Christmas morning. Yet I never realized how much I loved food and cooking until I moved into a place of my own and starting to learning to do it all myself.

Cooking for me is stress relief. Everyone has different levels and sources of stress, and I have several. Most of my stress at this point comes from being a respiratory therapy student, part-time employee at a local hospital, and a future bride. Most of the time I keep up with things pretty well and the stress doesn't hit me too hard... but sometimes, the only thing I can make myself do is cook. When my weekend is packed with studying, you can bet that I'll pencil in a couple of hours on Sunday to make something warm and comforting (a few weeks ago it was beef and barley soup with pumpkin scones... yum.).

And honestly, that's where I'm at tonight. This last week has been crazy between school and work and orienting for the new position I've been excited about forever but honestly didn't have time to worry about this week. I have a test on Monday that I've barely studied for, but you know what I'm doing? Baking apple pie and telling you lovely people about it. Will I regret it on Monday? Maybe, although I doubt it. It's hard to regret something as wholly comforting and delicious as apple pie. Plus what does it matter if I pass lab with an A+ if I have no sanity left by the end of the semester?

"So why is this girl blogging?" you may be wondering. Well, for one, I blame my mother for making me watch Julie & Julia. There is so much about Julie that I identify with. Just like her, I am still learning to cook and I am completely devoted to getting better at it. I get most of my inspiration from cookbooks and other cooks, just like her too. And I am a writer at heart... another trait we share. So I suppose we could consider Julie to be my inspiration. But really, I'm blogging because I love food. I love to cook, I love to eat... and I love to share it with other people (really... my friends are getting tired of getting picture messages from me of "the best pizza I've ever eaten" or "the amazing chicken cordon bleu I just made"). And as humble as my talents may be at this point, it makes me feel good to show someone what I've learned. I may not be the best cook yet, I may not have the best kitchen or the best tools or the best camera, but I'm trying, by God, and that's got to count for something.

So join me, if you will, in this lovely adventure I call learning. And please, by all means, critique me. Give me suggestions and teach me new tricks please! I am embarking on a grand and delicious journey, and I could sure use some friends. :)
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